Memorializing Turkey’s July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt in Istanbul: Spectacle, Embodiment, and the Material Trace

Authors: Timur Hammond*, Syracuse University
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Istanbul, Turkey, memory, materiality, July 15 coup attempt
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I explore the complex linkages between vision and memory in contemporary Istanbul, Turkey. On the night of July 15, 2016, elements of the Turkish Armed Forces occupied key locations throughout Istanbul and Ankara and announced that martial law had been declared and that a coup was in progress. Although Turkey has a long history of military intervention in democratic politics, 2016 marked the first time that a military coup was turned back by public protest. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets to face down the military units attempting to occupy public spaces. The next morning, the country faced its losses: 248 people had lost their lives fighting coup forces; an unknown number of military conscripts following orders of the coup plotters died during the fighting with an even larger number still in prison; in the crackdown that followed the coup attempt, over 140,000 people were detained and over 80,000 arrested. This paper examines the complicated and contested geographies of memory that have emerged in the aftermath of this coup attempt. These include renaming streets, declaring national holidays, building statues, and erecting both small monuments and massive edifices. In doing so, this paper seeks to make two contributions. First, it outlines the competing social and political identities that emerge in Istanbul in relation to these memorial geographies. Second, it contributes to our theorizations of memory’s geographies by focusing on the role that spectacle, embodiment, and materiality play in linking individuals to their political community.

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